Friday, October 30, 2009

LECH LECHA; GOING, GOING, GONE

by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

"...as bread and wine are brought forth to sanctify this moment of mankind's first recorded act of altruism, so too we use bread and wine to sanctify the Sabbath, which crowned Creation, G*d's enduring act of altruism for all time."

"We are bidden to circumcize even our hearts to serve G*d. This means, in the deepest sense, ironically, that only through having a broken heart can one have a whole or perfect heart to serve G*d. The pride of arrogance blocks the heart from the Divine light and Divine love. A circumcized heart allows the Divine light to reenter."

The Jewish People have often been termed "the wandering Jews." It is such a popular expression that a plant was even named in its honor. Abraham the Patriarch, Father of the Jewish People, was the first "wandering Jew," and we've been wandering ever since. What is it about the idea of separating - the essence of the meaning of being holy, of separating from the mundane and material, that makes it so central to the character and mission of the Jewish people? But the reuniting is then all the sweeter, embodied symbolically in the Challah and Kiddush that we bless on the Sabbath.

A common theme reverberating throughout Lech Lecha is that of leaving. Beginning first with G*d directing Avram to leave .... his land,.... his home, .... his birthplace, then proceeding to narrate the journey of Avram and company moving to Egypt to escape the effects of severe famine. Foreshadowing the travails of their descendants in Egypt in future generations, they fulfill the concept of ma'aseh avot siman lebanim- "the deeds of the antecedents are clues for the descendants."

What the patriarchs and matriarchs experienced in a familial setting was reenacted later on in a proto-national setting. To wit, the commonality of famine, descent into Egypt, handsomeness of features shared by both Sarai ("yefat mareh at"- Gen 12:11) as well as Yosef ("yefei toar veefei mareh"- Gen 39:6), attempted but failed seduction, captivity, plague and hasty expulsion accompanied by a profusion of gifts and wealth. Such numerous comparisons!

"Take and go" (kach ve'lech) are two verbs which are shared in both narratives- kach velech in Gen: 12:19, and k'chu ve'lechu in Ex: 12:32. Interestingly, the experience of captivity in Egypt is embodied in the personage of Sarai, the representative of the future collective assemblage of all Israel. Hence the plural form alluding to the patriarchs takes on a feminine ending- avOT rather than avIM. Therefore AVOT this case is not gender specific, but rather is gender neutral, encompassing both the matriarchs as well as the patriarchs.

Their entourage now laden with wealth and riches, Avram and Lot now find themselves miserable in their crowded quarters. Why should there be constant strife between them when they could easily part company and go their separate ways? Indeed, perhaps Avram felt he was now passing along G*d's sage advice for *him,* now onto his nephew, Lot, as a ritualistic rite of passage to be perhaps incumbent now on all his descendents, whether adopted or biological."

Maybe you should go away," he says to Lot. "We won't be fighting anymore. It's a big world out there. Plenty of land (Gen 13: 8,9)." Indeed, he found new wealth opportunities and expanded possibilities in the lush and luxuriant land near Sodom.

Next to go was Hagar's appreciation of Sarai, and her respect for her former mistress. Now pregnant with Avram's supposed heir, she lorded it over Sarai, and revealed her barely disguised contempt for her, even though it was at Sarai's insistence that she become pregnant through Avram. Sarai, in an effort to win back and reassert her primacy in the marriage, as well as her sense of well-being and pyschic repose, insists that Hagar now take leave. Hesitant at first, in the end Avram "listened to her voice," a phrase later repeated (vayishma lekol sarai/shma bekola) by G*d as a directive to heed Sarah's intuitive wisdom and judgment. Hagar subsequently returns, the marital union restored, though somewhat a bit fractured because of the dissonance between the clarity of Sarai's judgment and Avram's hesitancy and reluctance.

Note that Sarai insisted on Hagar's departure even before G*d later promises Avraham that she will give birth and bear the heir (Gen17:15,16). In her mind, apparently, without shalom bayit, or peace in the home, to provide a solid and stable environment, any child reared in that home, she intuited, would carry the scar of familial discord and pass it down through eternity. The sacred task of rebuilding mankind's connection with the Divine needed a solid foundation from which to be planted, to be nurtured and nourished, and then to grow and spread out and eventually redeem all humanity.

Indeed, in this quest for perfection, temimut (Gen 17:1), G*d commands Avraham to circumcize his flesh and that of his male descendants for all time as a symbol of that perfection. Ironically, the separation of the foreskin is a symbol of the newfound covenantal union between man and G*d. To become whole, therefore, one must become first a little separated. This is underscored with the Pact Between Halves (Gen15), where it is the splitting, or the separating of the animals, symbolic of the separating of man from his animal instinct, which leads to the promise of blessing and the continuity of his seed.

It is the separation of flesh from that very organ of regeneration and continuity of seed which therefore comes to symbolize that very covenant and the perfection of mankind, in that he is now worthy to walk before G*d. "Walk before Me and be perfect. I will make a covenant between Me and thee, and I will increase your numbers very much (Gen17:1,2)." In fact, later on, we are bidden to circumcize even our hearts to serve G*d. This means, in the deepest sense, ironically, that only through having a broken heart can one have a whole or perfect heart to serve G*d. The pride of arrogance blocks the heart from the Divine light and Divine love. A circumcized heart allows the Divine light to reenter.

But in the final analysis, it is not the initial leaving which brings blessing, but the subsequent return. When Hagar returns she is blessed with the birth of Ishmael who will have many descendants. Moreover, when Avram rescues Lot and returns all the captives and the lost booty to the king of Sodom he is blessed by Malchi-Tzedek, King of Salem, priest to G*d, the Most High. He "brings forth" bread and wine. And as bread and wine are brought forth to sanctify this moment of mankind's first recorded act of altruism, so too we use bread and wine to sanctify the Sabbath, which crowned Creation, G*d's enduring act of altruism for all time.

As Malchi-Tzedek acknowledges Avraham's crowning achievement for mankind's spiritual evolution, so too do we acknowledge that the Sabbath is similarly the greatest tool for humanity's continual evolution. Bread and wine are both the end products of a lengthy cooperative human process, the fruits of labor many rungs above the primitive hunter/gatherer phase of man's development.

Avraham's act of conscious altruism is the pinnacle of a new age of moral evolution. And just as Avraham's act was not purely altruistic in that subsequently humanity was to benefit from the future Redeemer who would be born from his loins via Ruth the Moabitess who was a direct descendant of Lot and King David, so too, in celebrating the Sabbath, we not only give praise and bear testimony to G*d's creating the world, but we ourselves reap the specific benefits and blessings which inhere in its observance.

As much as Avraham gives to G*d through Malchi-Tzedek, Priest to G*d Most High, a "ma'ASER mikall", a TENTH of all which he captured (Gen14:20), G*d is giving back to Avraham "me'OSHER mikall," from the WEALTH of everything. The subject of the sentence is purposely left ambiguous so as to indicate that the impact of the blessings flow in both directions.

To be become sePARATED, lehiPARED, can bring loneliness and make one feel afraid (PRD), but we learn from our parsha that a loving hand is guiding Avraham's great journey. The Talmud in Masechet Shabbat tells us that each day of the week has a partner- Sunday is paired with Monday, Tuesday with Wednesday, and Thursday with Friday. The Sabbath then asks, "what about me?" I don't want to be lonely! G*d tells the Sabbath that "the Jewish People will be your partner."

Avraham, the father of the Jewish people, is teaching us that the antidote to loneliness, separation and social anomie, is in helping others. Through giving of yourself to others, your own pain disappears. When Avraham ran to greet and feed the visiting angels his own pain from his recent circumcision disappeared! When he freed his nephew Lot from captivity he showed the world the redeeming power of altruism. When we bless our wine and our bread this Sabbath eve, after singing Shalom Aleichem at the table next to our Kiddush wine and Challah loaves, let us remember these gifts of Malchi-Tzedek, and how the initial travail of separation, through altruism, leads ultimately to the sweet reunion- of Avraham and Lot, of the Jewish People and the Land of Israel, and of our souls and G*d.

And as we bid adieu to the departing angels who guided our steps home from the synagogue and blessed our home with Sabbath peace, so too we bless them back. Tzetchem leShalom. Lech Lecha. Not, "maybe you should leave," but rather, "Go in Peace, my beautiful friends, my sweet angels."

Shabbat Shalom. Good Shabbos.

© 2000 - 2009 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

These words of Torah are written in honor of the memory of my beloved father, Israel J. Melman, obm, Yisrael Yehoshua ben Harav Yaakov Hakohen Melman, z"l.

http://seferchabibi.blogspot.com/2007/07/yahrzeit-of-my-father-27-tammuz.html
http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9506EEDC1630F93BA35754C0A9649C8B63

Chabibi stands for CHidushei Baruch Binyamin ben Yisrael Yehoshua

(a chidush, from the word chadash, means a new, original or fresh perspective).
Dedications are available.

Friday, October 23, 2009

NOACH; A CHANGE IN THE NATURE

by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman


Let's see. Take two of every species. Seven pairs of the kosher (clean) species (Gen 7:2). And take food for them all as well. Lions and tigers, leopards, panthers and bobcats are all carnivores by nature. And yet they ostensibly were vegetarian while on board the ark. Otherwise the antelope, elk, sheep, zebra and deer would nowhere be found once the hatches were opened.

Maybe even Noah and his family might be missing as well!

Where else do we see allusions to dietary tranformation? At the eschaton, the end of days, when Isaiah's oft misquoted prophetic vision of the "lion and the lamb" shall come to pass:

Isaiah 11:6-9, "The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion..."

In other words, there will one day be a complete evolutionary leap in creation with a change in the basic drives and instincts throughout the animal kingdom, including man. Just as in the short time aboard the ark, so too in the future will this vast and magnificent transformation occur.

The seven Noahide laws are a key stepping stone towards mankind's moral evolution. Murder, incest/promiscuity, kidnapping/stealing, blasphemy, idolatry, cruelty to animals, and judges/law courts/police. These seven categories are symbolically represented by the seven colors of the rainbow, the sign of the Covenant with humanity.

The messianic age will reveal all that lay submerged and hidden from the time of Creation and the Noahide Creation redux. The Ohr Haganooz, the hidden supernal light from the time of Creation, the light that existed prior to the creation of the heavenly bodies, will one day be revealed. The temporary change in the carnivorous nature of the animal kingdom will become a new and permanent condition. Finally, the waters of the earth will one day become sweet. In Gen 8:2 it says vayiSaCHRu maayanot tehom. This is usually translated as "the waters of the deep were sealed." But the root of vayiSaCHRu is sucar, meaning "sugar," in Hebrew.

Basically, this means that the words of Torah, which are often compared to water, will one day transform the world and all that is in it only when their message is sweet. The whole world will be drawn to G*d's word when those who live it and teach it are its worthy bearers and convey its sweetness through their thoughts, words and deeds. By the same token, when its message is blurred by the misdeeds of its bearers, it sets the clock back and delays the final redemption. May we, the descendants of Noah, who in his righteousness merited redemption in his day, come to know the true and sweet redemption in our own.

Shabbat Shalom!
Good Shabbos!

© 2000 - 2009 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

These words of Torah are written in honor of the memory of my beloved father, Israel J. Melman, obm, Yisrael Yehoshua ben Harav Yaakov Hakohen Melman, z"l.

http://seferchabibi.blogspot.com/2007/07/yahrzeit-of-my-father-27-tammuz.html
http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9506EEDC1630F93BA35754C0A9649C8B63

Sefer Chabibi stands for CHidushei Baruch Binyamin ben Yisrael Yehoshua
(a chidush, from the word chadash, means a new, original or fresh perspective).
Dedications are available.

Friday, October 16, 2009

BREISHEET: GUARDIAN OF EDEN

Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

The ultimate challenge in life is in giving back, in repaying the Source of Life for the gifts which we have freely received. Paid forward, we have yet to earn them. Through giving back, whether by tzedaka (righteousliving), tefilah (self-judgment) or teshuva (turning to G*d), gemilut chasadim (deeds of loving kindness) or learning Torah, we restore equilibrium both to ourselves and to the world.

Our parsha this week, B'reisheet, deals with the subject of taking. While our emphasis in life should properly belong to giving, it is important to understand some of the deeper meanings of taking. The very first act of "taking" (kicha) in the Torah, is when "G*d TOOK the man and placed him inthe Garden of Eden to work it and to guard it." (Gen 2:15). But then we were flawed and proved unworthy of remaining in our pristine surroundings until we could earn our way back to return with a greater maturity. Man was told to guard the Garden, but in just the next chapter (Gen 3:22):

"And G*d said, man has now become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now he must be prevented from putting forth his hand and also TAKING from the Tree of Life. He can eat it and live forever."

Ironically, man who was to guard the Garden is now himself to be guarded FROM the Garden by the cheruvim, the holy cherubs, at the east of Eden, along with the LAHAT HA-CHEREV HA-MIT'HAPECHET to guard the path of the Tree of Life. This LAHAT HA-CHEREV HA-MIT'HAPECHET is usually translated as "revolving sword blade." I would rather translate it as a "flaming sword which makes everything seem the opposite."

In otherwords, were we to pass through and gain entrance to the Garden, we would finally glimpse the world of truth (olam ha-emet), where everything is how it should be. In our world, the world of falsehood (olam ha-sheqer), the wicked often prosper and the good often suffer. The Sabbath (Shabbat) is that opportunity to transport ourselves back to the Garden, to catch but a fleeting glimpse of the olam ha-emeth. Indeed, the Sabbath is called me'eyn olam haba, "a taste (aspect) of the world to come." On the Sabbath, even the flaming swords of Eden have a day of rest, paralleling the fires of gehennom ("hades") which are said to also abate on this day.

Finally, though not chronologically, we have the TAKING of the man's bone, in the building of woman (Gen 2:21). The word bone in English comes from the Hebrew, because the woman was built from man's bone. VayiVeN means he built. The bones are the building blocks, the support scaffolding of the human body. Without bones we would be slithering on the ground like the snake. The snake lacked true binah, understanding. Man and woman have it by nature, though
it is truly learned only through experience, trial and error.

Now if man is considered to be the crown of creation, then woman, appearing as she does on the proverbial scene after man, is therefore the CROWN of the CROWN of creation. That is, if every creature formed later than any other creature is said to be on a higher level, then how much more so, our tradition teaches, is woman on a higher spiritual level than man. That is why chazal, the sages of blessed memory, taught that the time-designated mitzvoth are especially helpful for men in order for them to attain that spiritual level already held by women. Women by their very nature are sensitive to time, and thus are more sensitive and more aware of the Master of Time- He who was, who is, and who always will be(YKVK).

Men, it is said, therefore need the time-bound mitzvoth to fill a lacking, to develop a higher awareness of the Creator of Time. If man is considered to have been created Beyn ha-Shemashot, on the proverbial twilight of the sixth day, moments before the first Sabbath, then woman, created last, is truly Beyn ha-Shemashot BEYN ha-Shemashot. She truly understands (Binah) time.

When a woman kindles the two (or more) Sabbath lights, the shabbos licht, she is really on the deepest level recreating the two flaming swords of the cherubs. The woman is the guardian of the holiness of the Sabbath in the Jewish home, like the cherubs assigned to be the Guardians of Eden. The woman takes over for the cherubs on their day of rest.

When a man and a woman marry, there is also an act of kicha, of "taking." But this idea of "taking" should never be misunderstood in its crass sense. Rather, it is an allusion to that original taking with regard to woman that was first mentioned in the Torah. His taking now completes the circle, in that he is now taking that woman who had been first taken from him, from his bone.

The union of a man and a woman harkens back to the first union of Adam and Eve. They are symbolically (re) joined as one flesh, combining the male and female energies to continue humanity and to make a new beginning. The Sheva Brachos, the seven blessings of the wedding ceremony, richly alludes to this promise of new beginnings.

As the Holy Temple burned in the flames and came crashing down, cinder by cinder, fiery ember by fiery ember, the cherubs above the holy ark were locked in a loving embrace. Their swords of fire were now transformed into loving embraces, the true meaning of Lahat ha-Cherev ha-Mit'hapechet- the transforming sword of fire, where a CHeReV(sword/combatant) would be transformed into a CHaVeR (com-panion, i.e., sharing both pain and bread -see French "pain").

In our lives today, we see so much pain and so much fire in our relationships. Our challenge is to transform our feelings of deep pain into feelings of empathy for others and into good deeds and acts of kindness. Only when we take responsibility for our pain and for the pain of others and become holy embracers, we shall then find ourselves back in the Garden.

Shabbat Shalom! Good Shabbos!

© 2000 - 2009 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

These words of Torah are written in honor of the memory of my beloved father, Israel J. Melman, obm, Yisrael Yehoshua ben Harav Yaakov Hakohen Melman, z"l.

http://seferchabibi.blogspot.com/2007/07/yahrzeit-of-my-father-27-tammuz.html

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9506EEDC1630F93BA35754C0A9649C8B63

Sefer Chabibi stands for CHidushei Baruch Binyamin ben Yisrael Yehoshua

(a chidush, from the word chadash, means a new, original or fresh perspective).
Dedications are available.

ROSH HASHANA: FRESH STARTS

by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

Rosh Hashana is the time of new beginnings and fresh starts. It's about changing. We change the world only when we change ourselves.

The word "shana" in Hebrew means many things. It is most commonly translated as year, but it also has many deeper related meanings. Shana also means "teach,"and the word "mishna," the oral teachings, comes from the same root. Shana also means "change" or "transformation."

In Hebrew, "leshanot" is the infinitive form of the word meaning "to change." The word for teeth, "sheenayim," also derives from the same root. Our teeth begin the transformation process, begin the changing of inanimate food into the very energy which animates us. That which was once matter of a certain provenance from outside of ourselves, some "other," now becomes a part of our very essence.

The word for tongue, "lashon,"also hints at this idea. Not only does the tongue aid the teeth in the digestive process, whose taste buds help avoid the fetid, the putrid and the rancid, but so too does the tongue form words, helping to change ethereal thoughts into the realm of action- into words, which are the genesis of action. And in Hebrew, the word "shoneh" means "different," apart from the norm by dint of change. Rosh Hashana, then, is often given short shrift by being viewed solely as meaning the "head of the year."

Passover, falling in the month of Nisan, is explicitly enumerated in the Torah as being more properly known as the head of the year, calling her "the first month." Tishrei, the month of Rosh Hashana, is literally called "the seventh month." So what should it then be called? How do we tie all these meanings of shana together to form a coherent, organic whole?

Rosh Hashana should be called "the beginning of changing." Just as nature begins to change with the changing of the leaves and the change in the seasons, and school begins, so too should we learn to let go and to embrace a new beginning. Tishrei is the seventh month. Shabbat is the seventh day.

Shabbat, the seventh day, where we change into our heavenly spiritual garments, is mirrored in the seventh month, the month of spiritual transformation. All year long we are learning life's lessons. Each year we try to grow, becoming different and better people than we were the year before. We strive to accept change in life, in others and in ourselves. Only through forgiving ourselves and others can we take the first step in making these changes. Only through a renewed sense of responsibility to the covenantal idea, to the idea of mitzvah, can this change occur.

This responsibility to facilitate this process of change is the essence of the Torah's eternal challenge. But true change is very frightening. As they say, everyone wants progress, but no one wants to change. So the Creator Above understands this and helps us to change, giving us a forty day period from Rosh Chodesh Elul through Yom Kippur to help us to psychologically navigate the transformation. We cannot do it in one day.

The shofar we blow each morning during the month of Elul in this season of changing, itself epitomizes change. From originally being the instrument of animal warfare, of strife and contention, it will one day become the instrument through which we announce the Messianic Age, heralding the dawn of a new age of peace,love and brotherhood.Shana Tova, the New Year greeting, does not only mean Happy New Year. On the deepest level it means, "Change for the Good." May we all change for the good, and choose life. Amen.

Shabbat Shalom. Good Shabbos.

© 2000 - 2009 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

These words of Torah are written in honor of the memory of my beloved father, Israel J. Melman, obm, Yisrael Yehoshua ben Harav Yaakov Hakohen Melman, zichrono livracha.
Sefer Chabibi stands for CHidushei Baruch Binyamin ben Yisrael Yehoshua
(a chidush, from the word chadash, means a new, original or fresh perspective).
Dedications are available.

NEVER GIVE UP!

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Reb Shlomo with Reb Zusha ben Avraham Zimmerman

Reb Shlomo with Reb Zusha ben Avraham Zimmerman

moshav band live at mexicali blues

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What mind is it?

"Great minds discuss ideas;
average minds discuss events;
small minds discuss people."
-Eleanor Roosevelt


ON FIXING AND HEALING...

"If you believe that you can damage, then believe that you can fix..... If you believe that you can harm, then believe that you can heal..........." Rebbe Nachman of Breslov

Hatiqwa

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Beta Israel - Ethiopian Jews - The Ingathering from Without

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Palestinians of Jewish origin - The Ingathering from Within

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Holy Wedding at Makhpela, Tomb of our Fathers in hevron - Music by Pey Dalid

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A SACRED DUTY: APPLYING JEWISH VALUES TO HELP HEAL THE WORLD

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IVDU ET HASHEM B'SIMCHA- SERVE THE LORD WITH JOY DANCING AND SINGING FROM INSIDE A BOMB SHELTER

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SELICHOT LIVE AT CARLEBACH SHUL 2008

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NAZI RALLIES AND SPEECHES

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JEWISH MEN AND WOMEN GATHER TO CELEBRATE REB SHLOMO'S 14TH YAHRZEIT SINGING AT HIS GRAVE

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Reb Zalman on Jewish Renewal

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Let There Be Peace

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"No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care."

- anonymous
"Perhaps the greatest force in the entire universe is compounded interest."

- Albert Einstein

the last hoshana rabba with reb shlomo and me playing together the week before he took off in '94

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bob marley - one love 6:13 (6 MINUTES 13 SECONDS) and exodus

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Tisha B'Av 5765 Katif Expulsion

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Children of Sderot - The Daily Terror and Nightmares

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Let Me Sing a New Song

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On Schlomo's magnificent 13th (Bar Mitzvah) yahrzeit in Heaven

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AMAZING INTERVIEW WITH REB SHLOMO top video only

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Larry David wants to Save the Planet

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Havdalah Ceremony on Moshav Meor Modiin in Central Israel

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Alpha blondy from cote d'ivoire sings his love of Jerusalem in Hebrew and French all over the world

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When I was young I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people.- Abraham Joshua Heschel
The whole world is a very narrow bridge. And the most important thing is to not be afraid.
-Rebbe Nachman of Breslov
"The greatest thing in the world is to do somebody else a favor." - Aish Kodesh
"As you want G*d to give you a chance, give everyone else a chance to also begin again." - Shlomo Carlebach

About Me

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United States
I played violin with Reb Shlomo and studied under him for over nine years at hundreds of concerts and learnings. Shlomo wanted to give me smicha before he passed. Deepest influences: My father,obm, who was a great scientist and human being, and my grandfather, obm, who was a great Torah scholar who was a musmach of the Mir Yeshiva and taught in Slobodka in Russia before WW1, and was also personal friends with the Chafetz Chaim and came to America in 1914. He knew the Talmud by heart! You could stick a pin in a word and he could tell you what word was on the other side! And my mother, Esther bat Baruch, z"l, who was a scholar of classical Hebrew and Tanach and who gave me a love for the language. And her mother, Anna (Sucher) Deutsch, who was born in Horodenka, spoke six languages, and shared her aged wisdom and eternal sweetness with me. I studied at Brandeis, Hebrew College, Pardes as well as seven years at The Metivta/ITJ earning my Advanced Semicha (yoreh yoreh)under Rav Halivni. What's truly amazing is that Shlomo and Rav Halivni each received semicha from Rav Hutner! But my deepest influences of them all are my sweetest sweetest girls who have taught me the most!